Tag Archives: Georgia Architecture

St. Mary A. M. E. Church, 1905, Thomaston

Freedmen established this historic congregation in 1867. James McGill writes in his fascinating book, The First One Hundred Years of Upson County Negro History (2017): By the summer of 1870, Reverend William Harris was sent to St. Mary AME Church in Thomaston, Georgia. Rev. Harris, the third pastor in the history of St. Mary, was born free in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1845 but was kidnapped in 1858 and sold into slavery in Georgia. He escaped to the North two years later and eventually enlisted in the Union Army.

William Harris met Rev. M. Turner, a Presiding Elder of the AME Church, on the corner of Peachtree and Whitehall Streets in Atlanta in 1866…At the Atlanta Georgia District Conference of the AME Church, Rev. Turner licensed [Harris] as an exhorter, and then presented him a preacher’s license at the Wilmington Annual Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina. Rev. Harris received some schooling at what would later become Clarke College. Rev. Harris served Atlanta’s Western Mission for two years before being presented a deacon’s license in 1870 and appointed to St. Mary in Thomaston.

It is safe to assume that Rev. Harris taught school at St. Mary AME Church. St. Mary had a new church building completed that year [1870] which provided ample room for scholars. The school operated in St. Mary at least as late as 1876. Upson County did not open a public school in Thomaston for Negro students until August 1883; St. Mary can confidently claim credit for housing the first successful church school organized for the Negroes in Upson County.

The current church building was constructed in 1905 during the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Adams. Trustees were: H. R. Rogers; Ed Hix; A. G. Cary; George Bell; William Brown; James Brown; James W. Bell; M. Drake, Sr.; and A. Holsey. The church retains its original appearance, though stucco has been applied to the original brick.

Wilkins House, 1860s, Athens

Alfred Dearing began construction on this house around 1860, and after work was interrupted by the Civil War, completed it in the late 1860s or early 1870s. It was sold in 1878 and after passing through several owners, became the home of leading Athens banker John Julian Wilkins in 1905. The Classical Revival landmark is among the grandest homes on South Milledge Avenue.

National Register of Historic Places

Colonial Revival Cottage, Jefferson

Jefferson Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, Jackson County

This property was originally settled by Joseph Shields and sons James and Patrick in 1802.

Date Plate from Restoration of Main House [1914]

With two slaves, they cleared and cultivated the land.

Log Cabin

When Joseph died in 1818, he willed the land to his son, James and by 1860, 20 enslaved people worked the land.

Commissary [1900]

James died in 1863 and in 1865 his widow, Charity, signed a contract with three of her former slaves, providing them housing and food in exchange for their work on the farm.

Blacksmith’s Shop & Carpenter’s Shop [1900]

When James and Charity’s son, Joseph Robert Shields, returned home from the Civil War in 1866, he built the main house and soon applied the sharecropping system to the entire farm, managing many of his former slaves alongside poor white farmers.

Tractor Barn

By 1890, the farm had grown to 1000 acres.

Warehouse

In 1897, Joseph Robert’s daughter Susan Ella returned to the farm with her husband Ira Washington Ethridge.

Cotton Gin [1910]

Joseph Robert Shields died in 1910 and Susan Ella and Ira inherited the house and surrounding property.

Gin Office [1930]

To hedge his bets against increasingly unstable cotton prices, Ira Ethridge built a self-sustaining sharecropper’s “village” near the main house.

Gin Office Interior

In 1914, “Mr. Ira” transformed the main house from its historical Plantation Plain appearance to it present Neoclassical appearance by adding columns and raising the porch.

Gristmill

The structures seen today were built between 1900-1930. Most of the sharecropper housing is gone today, but a few scattered examples survive.

Seed House

When Ira died in 1945, his son Lanis understood that the farm would soon be changed by mechanization.

Teacher’s House

He diversified and in the early 1950s began breeding cattle and slowly expanding pastureland on his acreage.

Well House [Reconstruction]

At his death in 1970, the sharecropper’s village was long abandoned.

Water Tower [1913]

His widow, Joyce Ethridge, began documenting the history of the farm.

Corn Crib

In 1994 she and daughters Susan E. Chaisson and Ann E. Lacey gave 150 acres of the farm to the Shields-Ethridge Farm Foundation to preserve the site as an agricultural museum.

Shields-Ethridge Family Cemetery

Joyce’s research also led to the listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places.

Milking Barn

The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm is the most intact collection of historic farm structures in their original location in Georgia.

Mule Barn [1913]

It is truly awe-inspiring and worth a visit.

Garage

As someone who has spent years seeking out structures like these, I can’t tell you how important this place is.

Wheat Barn [1910]

You must see it for yourself.

Tenant House

National Register of Historic Places + Georgia Centennial Farm

Note- This replaces a post originally published on 11 July 2021, necessitated by formatting issues.

Old Homer Baptist Church, Banks County

This was identified as the “Old Homer Baptist Church” in the nomination forms for designation of the Homer Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It has subsequently served other congregations, the Alliance Church being the most recent I could find.

Homer Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Colonial Revival Office Building, Danielsville

This is located on the courthouse square in Danielsville and has most recently served as an office space. The present door placements suggest it may have always served such a purpose, but I won’t rule out that it may have been a residence or boarding house in the past.

Craftsman Bungalow, Lexington

Lexington Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Colonial Revival House, 1904, Maxeys

Bowers House, 1921, Canon

In its secluded setting, the Bowers House is difficult to capture, but that’s the point. It’s been put into service as a literary and creative retreat, in an effort by the family to keep the house while providing writers, artist, and musicians a quiet creative space. The family are descendants of Job Bowers II (31 August 1803-25 June 1888), an abolitionist, religious pacifist, and publisher who brought the Universalist Church to Georgia and laid out the town of Canon in what had originally been known as West Bowersville. Job’s grandfather, Revolutionary War soldier Job Bowers (1755-1779), was one of the earliest settlers of Franklin County. The family were also founders of the nearby town of Bowersville.

It was built as the Canon Hotel during what could be called the town’s boom time, when the railroad kept the mills running and cotton was king. Traders and salesmen were regulars but the property failed in the Great Depression in a region already ravaged by the deleterious effects of the boll weevil. The hotel was converted it into a private home thereafter.

Canon Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Note: This updates and replaces a post originally published on 22 July 2019.

Habersham County Courthouse, 1964, Clarkesville

This Mid-Century Modern structure, now known as the “old county courthouse”, is slated for redevelopment, having been sold by the county circa 2019. It replaced a much more traditional 1898 courthouse and has been widely despised by the community since its construction. The clock tower was added in 1983 but did nothing to appease the building’s legion of detractors. A new court complex was in use by 2013.